JOHN WICK (2014)
This is the story about a guy and his dog.
Not just any guy, and not just any dog. John Wick's the guy, and you mess with him…well, then you've got a death wish. When tragedy after tragedy befalls the titular ex-hitman, John Wick throws all caution to the wind and decides to go all scorched earth on his foes. This guy goes YOLO so hard, it would give Drake a run for his money.
Starring Keanu Reeves as the title character, John Wick is the first feature film from stunt directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (though Stahelski has the lone credit on the screen). Both Leitch and Stahelski are household names in the stunt industry, being the heavyweights responsible for the action awesomeness in films like Fight Club, 300, The Bourne Ultimatum, Serenity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and the more near and dear to Keanu Reeves’ heart: The Matrix Trilogy. Naturally, the fight scenes in John Wick are swift, tight, hard-hitting, and obnoxiously awesome.The film also stars Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo and Adrianne Palicki.
John Wick may not be as over the top, subversive and campy as Shoot ‘Em Up, but it echoes the bombastic film in spirit. Wick isn’t necessarily the most interesting character, but the way people around him respond to his doom and gloom reputation makes for wildly entertaining fun. Some audiences may feel that the character barely had any personality to speak of, but I didn’t mind this too much as it suited the grim reaper persona he seemed to be modeled after. Reeves wears this role like a glove, incorporating John Constantine’s jaded, slightly devil-may-care attitude with the calm, zen-like demeanor of The Matrix's chosen one Neo. Being no stranger to action, Reeves is completely believable in the action scenes, and considering that most of the fight scenes were fast and in close quarters, it would not surprise me to find out if the 47 Ronin star did most of his own stunts.
Apart from the fantastic action sequences, another positive aspect of the film was its self-awareness. It never really ventured into the meta territory that made Shoot ‘Em Up so memorable, but it was generally aware of its own ridiculousness. The production design and cinematography of the film was also really well done, featuring great sets and brilliant use of lighting and color, as well as dynamic camera angles that really showed off the meticulous stunt work that went into the fight sequences. I also really loved the elegance of the criminal underworld featured in the film. We can get so used to seeing a seedy type of gangster universe in this genre that any time there’s a semblance of decorum and class, it stands out.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed John Wick. Save for a slightly rushed and underwhelming ending, it was a lot of fun to watch. It was also a treat to see Reeves reunited with many of his former collaborators, from the directors to The Matrix Reloaded's Daniel Bernhardt and Randall Duk Kim. See John Wick this weekend if you are a fan of action, and if you liked Shoot ‘Em Up.
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